Middle East

Luxembourg’s Jean Asselborn calls for recognizing Palestine

Luxembourg and other EU nations would recognize the Palestinian state were France to lead the way, Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn says. Europeans “must show” that Palestinians deserve a state, he added.

The European Union is divided on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which makes it impossible to lead an active Middle Eastern policy, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Asselborn called on European nations to recognize the state of Palestine and urged Paris to set an example.

“We Europeans must show that Palestinians also have a right to their own state,” he said in the article published on Wednesday. “If France would lead the way by recognizing Palestine, other countries would follow, including Luxembourg.”

Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia are also reportedly ready to recognize the Palestinian National Authority as a full-fledged national government.

Pressure from Washington

The 28-nation bloc already has several members who consider Palestine to be a state. Most of them, such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, took the step during the Cold War — long before joining the EU.

In 2014, however, Sweden became the first Western European country to recognize Palestine.

Since December, European countries are also under strong pressure from the United States, after President Donald Trump announced that the US embassy in Israel would relocate to Jerusalem. The move represents a strong signal of support for Israel’s position that the divided city of Jerusalem — and not Tel Aviv — is the country’s capital. However, Palestinians also view East Jerusalem as their capital. The US has called on the EU to also recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government.

In December, the EU said it was still “committed to the two-state solution,” and that nothing has changed in the official “viewpoint on Jerusalem.”

EU divided?

Six EU countries abstained during the symbolic UN vote to show opposition to Trump’s move on December 21. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Latvia all refrained from rebuking the US, joining other American allies such as Canada and Australia.

Even before the vote, Prague issued a statement designating Jerusalem “to be the future capital of both states, meaning the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine.” However, Czech officials decided against moving their embassy to Jerusalem.

Both Israelis and Palestinians reportedly seek to explore these divisions in their diplomatic struggle. Several weeks ago, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visited Brussels to meet with EU foreign ministers, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to do the same on Monday. Palestinian sources claim that their officials are negotiating with several EU states about officially recognizing Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital in order to balance out the US’s decision.

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